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Ellard, ex-NFL star, is ready for first Masters Championship
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Ellard, ex-NFL star, is ready for first Masters Championship

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Not every former pro-football player is suffering from poor health.

Henry Ellard, who spent 16 years in the NFL and was an all-pro wide receiver, is in such good physical condition that he decided to get back into track and field. At 52, he’ll compete in the USA Track & Field Masters Outdoor Championships — which will run through Sunday at Wake Forest — for the first time.

Ellard made the U.S. Olympics Trials in the triple jump in 1992, but that was a long time ago.

“It’s funny, but my girls all run track, and one day I was out there, and I saw this older guy working on the pole vault, so I went over and started talking to him,” said Ellard, who will turn 53 on Monday.

From that conversation, Ellard decided to start training with an eye toward the Masters Outdoor Championships.

“I’ve been blessed to be in good health and didn’t have any serious injuries when I played in the NFL,” said the 5-11 Ellard, who retired in 1998 weighing 188 pounds. He proudly says he weighs about 190 pounds now, thanks to maintaining a healthy lifestyle after his playing days.

Ellard, a wide-receivers coach for the New Orleans Saints, will be competing in the long jump and triple jump at Wake Forest.

He said that his family has been a big help in his maintaining is good health. He has a son, Henry Jr., 29, and four daughters — Whitney, 26; Christiana, 17; Alexandria, 14; and Adriana, 11.

Ellard said that his family also will look at Wake Forest this week.

“We’ll also use the trip so Christiana can get a look at the school there,” Ellard said. “It’s going to be a full week for our family.”

Ellard admits that working out with no goal can get boring. After he signed up for the Masters Championships, he started to train harder.

“I decided to work toward this Masters meet,” said Ellard, who has been closely studying the competition in his age group. “It’s really good to have a goal in mind and something to shoot for, and I think that helps a lot of us stay in pretty good shape.”

Ellard said he has seen the stories of former NFL players who are in failing health or have struggled financially. He said he has former teammates who are struggling.

“Like I said before, I’ve been very blessed, and I’m in good health,” he said. “Now, that’s not to say that it won’t change, but I plan on staying in good shape.”

Ellard played for the Los Angeles Rams, Washington Redskins and New England Patriots and was a three-time pro-bowl selection. He had 814 career catches and scored 65 touchdowns, and at the time he retired, his 13,777 yards receiving ranked third all-time.

In high school in Hoover, Calif., he competed in football and track, and he was a state champion in the triple jump in 1979. The Rams drafted him out of Fresno State in the second round in 1983, and he turned into a very consistent player.

Ellard, heading into his third season with the Saints, said that not many people know about his prowess on the track. In fact, he said that none of the Saints players knew he was competing this week.

“I guess they’ll find out when we hit training camp pretty soon,” he said. “That was another thing that sparked my interest, the timing of the meet. It just worked out great so we’ll see how it goes.”

When he made it to Olympics qualifying in 1992, he was still playing. He didn’t advance in the triple jump after scratching on his first attempt and tweaking a hamstring on the second attempt.

“I’m just going to go out there and have a little fun with it,” Ellard said. “I remember I was a little disappointed in 1992, so I want to kind of redeem myself a little bit in this meet.”

jdell@wsjournal.com (336) 727-4081

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